TonyMoore - WasteMINZ

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WASTER PAYS – ONE YEAR ON IN CHRISTCHURCH
Tony Moore, Senior Planner, Christchurch City Council
[email protected], 0064 (3) 941 6426
Abstract
Direct charging for waste disposal is a core policy contained in the New Zealand Waste
Strategy and in the waste plans of Councils throughout the Country. However, its
implementation and effectiveness can be clouded. Applying direct charges to domestic refuse
collection can result in concerns about higher levels of contamination in kerbside recycling,
illegal dumping and a mass exodus from Council, to private, waste collection services.
Likewise, “pay as you throw” systems for domestic refuse collection are often established
along with improvements to kerbside recycling services, making impacts of the financial
disincentive difficult to determine.
In April 2004 the Christchurch City Council went part-way to a full direct charging regime
for domestic refuse collection. It halved the number of 50 litre, rate-funded rubbish bags
allocated to each property to 26 bags per year and lowered the annual rates demand
accordingly. This change was made without altering other waste or recycling services,
making it possible to isolate the impact of moving towards direct charging in the city.
After the first year, the tonnes collected in rubbish bags fell by 10% resulting in a $620,000
saving to the community in waste collection and disposal costs. The tonnes recycled at the
kerbside increased by 16% and contamination and illegal dumping remained at background
levels. Ten percent of households decided to use a private waste collector, largely due to an
aggressive promotional campaign by the collectors and public uncertainty about the changes.
The total number of rubbish bags used in Christchurch fell by 34% indicating that households
were using bags leftover from previous allocations, placed more into each bag (average bag
weight increased by 1 kg per bag) and moved to use private collection services.
This paper concludes that moving, even part way, toward direct charging for domestic refuse
collection is an effective way to encourage waste minimisation, provided dumping in roadside
litter bins and the impact of private waste collectors are managed. However, greater waste
avoidance is achieved by combining direct charging with an increased opportunity to recycle
at the kerbside.
Introduction
This paper provides a case study on the impact of direct charging for domestic refuse
collection in Christchurch. It is particularly relevant to policy and decision makers wanting to
implement polluter/waster pays policies for domestic refuse collection and for those with an
interest in the impact and effectiveness of such policies.
Full cost pricing for refuse disposal is a core principal contained in the New Zealand Waste
Strategy (MFE 2002). “Efficient pricing policies that as far as practicable reflect the full cost
of waste disposal … are the cornerstone of this strategy.” Full cost pricing policies have been
adopted, at least in principle, by most Councils in New Zealand. However, implementing
polluter/waster pays policy in relation to kerbside refuse collection in New Zealand can be
problematic. It is fundamentally a political decision that can be hotly debated, fuelled by
fears of illegal dumping, increased contamination of existing recycling services, unfair
impacts on lower-socioeconomic groups and uncertainty about shifts from Council, to private,
waste collection services.
This situation is compounded by an apparent lack of clear evidence that such policy will
actually reduce waste. Case studies investigating the impact of direct charging for refuse
collection are not clear because many also include the introduction of, or improvements to
kerbside recycling services. Waste reductions of between 20 – 60% were achieved when
direct charging was introduced along with kerbside recycling or organic collection services
(Skumatz 2002). The benefits directly attributable to the economic disincentive to dispose of
refuse are clouded with the increased opportunity to reduce waste.
A study of 500 communities in North America that aimed to isolate the impact of direct
charging for kerbside services found that refuse disposal fell 17% by weight, with 10% being
attributable to increases in kerbside recycling and 6% to source reduction (Skumatz 2002).
But this study failed to include the impacts of illegal dumping and shifts to private waste
collection services.
Other studies have looked specifically at the issue of illegal dumping and found that only
short-term problems arose that were readily dealt with by education and enforcement
(Skumatz 1994). However, such observations are likely to be specific to the community and
would reflect such things as the culture and community norms, the background level of illegal
dumping and enforcement, and the availability of sites for dumping refuse in and around the
city.
To assist decision makers in New Zealand, local evidence is needed that can isolate the
impact of direct charging for domestic refuse collection and that addresses the impacts of
illegal dumping and private waste collection services.
In April 2004 the Christchurch City Council went part-way to a full direct charging regime
for domestic refuse collection. It halved the number of 50 litre, rate-funded rubbish bags
allocated to each property to 26 bags per year and lowered the annual rates demand
accordingly (people that required more rubbish bags were able to buy them for $1.10 per bag
at supermarkets and Council service centres). This change was made without altering other
waste or recycling services, making it possible to isolate the impact of moving towards direct
charging in the City.
Key Findings – One Year On
It would be premature to judge the effectiveness of the 26 rubbish bag decision on the first
year of the scheme. The full effect of the bag reduction has yet to occur for the following
reasons:
 People need time to adjust to the new system and to find their own solutions to
minimise waste.
 After one year many households were still using rubbish bags left over from previous
allocations.
 Future improvements to kerbside services are proposed including the introduction of
wheeliebins for the collection of recyclables and organics (e.g. food scraps and
greenwaste).
 An anticipated shift to private waste collection services occurred due to the providers
carrying out aggressive promotion campaigns and due to public uncertainty about the
changes. National and international experience would suggest that at least some of
these households would revert back to the Council services once things settle down
and as the price for these private services increases with the disposal of waste to a new
regional landfill at Kate Valley in June 2005 ($125/tonne).
Please note that Christchurch is a city of 135,000 households and 340,000 residents and
where refuse and recyclables are collected each week at the kerbside.
Despite these constraints the following observations could be made about the period from 1
May 2004 to 30 April 2005:
a) The cost of providing 26 rubbish bags per year to each property came off the rates,
meaning that the Christchurch rates are now 1.2% lower than they would have been
with a 52 rubbish bag allocation.
b) A 16% (3,800 tonne) increase in the total amount collected in green kerbside recycling
crates (Figure 1), with contamination remaining at previous background levels (below
2% by weight). Participation in kerbside recycling remained high, at around 90%, but
the amount set out in the 45 litre green recycling crate increased to 3.4 kilograms per
household per week.
c) A 10% (3,360 tonne) reduction in the total amount of waste collected in black rubbish
bags (Figure 1). This waste reduction equates to a saving for the community of nearly
$620,000 (at $187 per tonne to collect and dispose of the rubbish bags). The weight of
individual rubbish bags rose from an average of 4.6 kg to 5.5 kg per bag. Therefore,
people were fitting more into each bag, but throwing out less household rubbish
overall. Refuse collection in the Council rubbish bags now stands at 4.5 kilograms per
household per week. It is important to place this achievement in context, because over
the same time the total amount of waste landfilled increased by 12%, largely due to
the buoyant economy. The amount collected in rubbish bags could have increased
accordingly. The fact that it fell, and that kerbside recycling increased, indicates the
success of the scheme.
Figure 1. Amount Collected at the Kerbside by the City Council
(Tonnes 1,000)
50
45
Move to 26
Rubbish Bags
Black Rubbish Bag
40
35
30
25
20
15
10
Green Crate Kerbside Recycling
5
0
1994/95 1995/96 1996/97 1997/88 1998/99 1999/00 2000/01 2001/02 2002/03 2003/04 2004/05
Year ending 30th June
d) A 34% reduction in the number of rubbish bags acquired by residents from the
Council compared to the same period in the previous year (i.e. 2,900,000 fewer bags
were either purchased or allocated to residents by the coupon system in 2004/05 than
in 2003/04). Indicating, that people are making do with fewer bags or are using bags
left over from previous allocations.
e) Based on surveys, a 10% increase in the use of private waste collection services
occurred largely due to waste companies undertaking aggressive promotional
campaigns and public uncertainty around the decision. Anecdotally, this shift would
have been reduced had the Council improved the kerbside recycling services at the
same time as reducing the allocation of rubbish bags. A rubbish bag in Christchurch
on average contains 50% organic matter and 20% recyclables by weight. The option of
introducing an organics collection service, together with an expansion of the items
able to be recycled, would have given residents greater opportunity to minimise waste
and so reduced the attractiveness of privately provided wheeliebins (less incentive is
created to compost or recycle when a household is presented with and compelled to
fill a 240 litre waste bin each week).
f) Illegal dumping or “fly tipping” in the City has remained at background levels (e.g. 12
reported cases via Requests For Service per week including dumping in parks,
waterways and other areas, but excluding abandoned cars). Observations in
Christchurch over the last 5 years indicate that illegal dumping is more closely linked
to tipping fees at Refuse Stations, the availability of free drop-off points for reusable
or recyclable items (e.g. for unwanted white-ware and old furniture) and charges for
greenwaste composting. The most common items inappropriately disposed of are
garden waste (offenders may think this will simply disappear and is not actually
dumping, but dispersed composting), larger household items of furniture or appliances
and rubble and demolition material. All of which are unrelated to the unit cost of a
rubbish bag (these items are difficult to put into a 50 litre rubbish bag).
g) The amount of household rubbish collected in roadside litter bins increased 15%
above long-term trends (Figure 2). Roadside litter bins were an easy target for
residents and because the Council has a regular emptying regime, it effectively
provides a free household waste disposal service to nearby residents. A programme to
manage this issue was implemented during the year, including placing stickers on the
roadside litter bins and ongoing enforcement (including the identification of offenders
and the issue of fines).
Figure 2.
Tonnes
350
Monthly Tonnage Collected From Roadside Litter Bins
Allocation of
26 rubbish bags
300
250
200
Long-term trend
150
100
50
Month
Jun-05
Apr-05
Feb-05
Dec-04
Oct-04
Aug-04
Jun-04
Apr-04
Feb-04
Dec-03
Oct-03
Aug-03
Jun-03
Apr-03
Feb-03
Dec-02
Oct-02
Aug-02
Jun-02
Apr-02
Feb-02
Dec-01
Oct-01
Aug-01
0
h) An average of 1.4% of households were initially using non-Council bags to dispose of
their household rubbish. An initial situation arose where some residents mistakenly
purchased and used non-Council rubbish bags. These bags were not collected and
marked with rejection stickers, in-line with normal practises. Where this mistake was
made consistently, notices were placed in letterboxes to inform residents of the correct
way to dispose of household refuse. This issue then returned to background levels
(below 0.3% of households). Council took a firm line on the use of non-Council
rubbish bags, which contributed to an average of 13 telephone calls per week asking
for the Council to remove non-Council bags. (Note: only official Council bags, those
clearly marked with the Council logo, were collected because the bag price includes
the cost of collecting and disposing of the rubbish).
Conclusions
In spite of an initial reluctance from the public, Council staff have received relatively few
complaints and in some instances letters in support of the decision have been received.
Anecdotally, public opinion remains polarised on the issue. Experience from elsewhere
indicates that after an initial resistance, people accept direct charging for refuse disposal (“pay
as you throw” systems) and see them as a fair way to pay for waste disposal services and to
minimise waste.
In Christchurch, even moving part-way to a direct charging system for kerbside refuse
collection has resulted in waste minimisation benefits. The 10% reduction in refuse collected
in rubbish bags and the 16% increase in kerbside recycling are in line with experiences
elsewhere and could be replicated by others. Should the Council consider a reduction of the
remaining 26 rate-funded rubbish bags it would be prudent to also increase the opportunities
to recycle to avoid further “leakage” to private collection services and to litter bins.
Increasing the opportunities for residents to reduce waste, through improvements to kerbside
recycling services, would provide a balanced carrot and stick approach, which is generally
more attractive to the public and effective at reducing waste. It would be no understatement
to say that the implementation of “waster pays” in Christchurch would have been made much
easier if an improved recycling service was offered to the public at the same time as the bag
reduction. Confusion through the public debate and negative reactions to the Council’s
decision were likely to have resulted in a greater shift to private collections and the use of
litter bins for household waste.
Consequently, this paper concludes that moving, even part way, toward direct charging for
domestic refuse collection is an effective way to encourage waste minimisation, provided
dumping in roadside litter bins and the impact of private waste collectors are managed.
However, greater waste avoidance and perhaps public acceptance, would be achieved by
combining direct charging with an increased opportunity to recycle at the kerbside.
References
MFE (2002) The New Zealand Waste Strategy: Towards zero waste and a sustainable New
Zealand. Ministry for the Environment, Wellington, New Zealand.
Skumatz, A., et al (1994) Illegal dumping: incidence, drivers and strategies. Research paper
9431-1, Skumatz Economic Research Associates Inc., Seattle.
Skumatz, A. (2002) Variable-rate or “pay as you throw” waste management: answers to
frequently asked questions. Reason Public Policy Institute, Reason Foundation, Los Angeles.
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